Archive for December, 2011

Both the Emperor’s commands and yours [person in authority] must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          – St. Euphemia

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 “Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.”

More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/nearly-half-of-americans-are-low-income-as-rising-expenses-unemployment-shrink-middle-class/2011/12/15/gIQAP7SEvO_story.html?tid=pm_business_pop

Meanwhile, the rich get richer:

“Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.”

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/14/executive-pay-increase-america-ceos?newsfeed=true

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Description from Amazon:
Freewheeling capitalism or collectivist communism: when it came to political-economic systems, did the twentieth century present any other choice? Does our century? In Third Ways, social historian Allan Carlson tells the story of how different thinkers from Bulgaria to Great Britain created economic systems during the twentieth century that were by intent neither capitalist nor communist. Unlike fascists, these seekers were committed to democracy and pluralism. Unlike liberal capitalists, they refused to treat human labor and relationships as commodities like any other. And unlike communists, they strongly defended private property and the dignity of persons and families. Instead, the builders of these alternative economic systems wanted to protect and renew the “natural” communities of family, village, neighborhood, and parish. They treasured rural culture and family farming and defended traditional sex roles and vital home economies.
Carlson’s book takes a fresh look at distributism, the controversial economic project of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton which focused on broad property ownership and small-scale production; recovers the forgotten thought of Alexander Chayanov, a Russian economist who put forth a theory of “the natural family economy”; discusses the remarkable “third way” policies of peasant-led governments in post–World War I Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania; recounts the dramatic and largely unknown effort by Swedish housewives to defend their homes against radical feminism; relates the iconoclastic ideas of economic historian Karl Polanyi, including his concepts of “the economy without markets” and “the great transformation”; and praises the efforts by European Christian Democrats to build a moral economy on the concept of homo religious—“religious man.” 

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Fleet Foxes

I have recently discovered this band (I know, I don’t get out much) and think them very fine indeed. Not a lot of musicians can capture the sound of ecstasy like this:

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“The president has raised more money from Wall Street through the Democratic National Committee and his campaign account than any politician in American history. This year alone, he has raked in more cash from bank employees, hedge fund managers and financial services companies than all Republican candidates combined.

Even poor Mitt Romney was outraised by the Obama money machine at his former employer, Bain Capital, by a margin of 2 to 1.”


Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/67770.html#ixzz1gXW7nnNS

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“Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.”

Those are the words of Newt Gingrich, Republican frontrunner. He makes no distinction between Sharia Law it is practiced by an extremist state like Saudi Arabia and how it is practiced by Muslims in Malaysia or Turkey or Detroit. Islam, again, is at least as diverse as other religions. There are ultraorthodox Jews who believe that the ancient Mosaic laws, with their stonings for all sorts of offenses, ought to be civil law. But can you imagine the outcry if a candidate denounced Kosher?

This is nothing new for Gingrich; he has a long history of demonizing Islam, even comparing  the moderate Muslims who were planning a cultural center in Manhattan, the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”- to Nazis, and insisting that as long as Christians could not build churches in the most oppressive Islamic state on the planet, Saudi Arabia, we should not allow Muslims to worship freely. Strange thought, that, that the US should take as its example a tyrannical state.

In this hostility to Muslims, Newt Gingrich, as in other aspects of his political thought, shows how little this reputed convert has been influenced by the Church, which insists that we find common ground with this other great Abrahamic religion.

It is too much for even many conservatives. Here is former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who denounces what he wonderfully calls Newt’s “passionate embrace of shallow ideas”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-problem-with-gingrichs-simplistic-attack-on-sharia/2011/12/12/gIQAv0nZqO_story.html

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Is it possible that after ruling like Bush Jr for three years Barack Obama can successfully recast himself as the populist defender of workers and the middle class? Absolutely, thanks to the Republicans. Not only have they appeared to have taken on a cartoonish image of guardians of the 1% and enemies of ordinary Americans, they took the cue and denounced Obama’s “class warfare” when he delivered what can only be seen as the opening salvo in his campaign for re-election. Not that this will fool the Occupy Wall Street movement or anyone else who has been paying attention to his actions over the last three years, but all it would take to convince the ordinary voter is for him to be friendlier to the 99% than his opponent, and that is not difficult. Image is everything in American politics, and it should be effortless for Mr Obama to pull it off.

But really, can it be that the President has come around and is rallying to the cause?

Not really:

“Under FDR, the top individual income rate was 94 percent. Under Kennedy, it was 91 percent. Under Lyndon Johnson, it was 70 percent. Under Reagan, it was 50 percent. Obama, the blood-curdling class warrior, would make it 39.6 percent.”

More, from Steve Chapman, who doesn’t think it a bad thing that Obama is not really taking on the elites: http://townhall.com/columnists/stevechapman/2011/12/08/barack_obama_class_warrior

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

” Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”

-Mary’s words to St Juan Diego

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Newt Gingrich’s recent statement, that the Palestinians are an “invented” people because 100 years ago they did not have a state of their own, that they are just “Arabs” makes sense only if Israelis are an “invented” people as well, for the same reason. Or try telling Slovaks, Ukrainians, or Rusyns that they are really all just Slavs. Try telling a Ukrainian and a Russian that they are the same people!

Here is John Glaser and Daniel Larison, from Antiwar.com:

I sometimes find it difficult to address political speech that is as disgusting as it is stupid. It can be hard to know where to start. And that’s exactly how I felt when I refrained from blogging about the Newt Gingrich comment that Palestinians are an “invented people.” He said:

Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places.

Thankfully, Daniel Larison ably tackles Newt’s repulsive and utterly ignorant remark:

It’s a good thing we have Gingrich to inform us that Palestinians are “in fact” Arabs, or we might somehow forget. Prior to the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, there were no independent Arab states anywhere. Did that mean that there were no distinctive nationalities or local identities among the Ottomans’ Arab subjects? Obviously not.

And he cites a fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, Hussein Ibish:

For a man who likes to call himself a historian, Gingrich’s grasp of these realities is astoundingly weak. To call the Palestinians ‘an invented people’ in an obvious effort to undermine their national identity is outrageous, especially since there was no such thing as an ‘Israeli’ before 1948. Arab and Jewish identities are very old, but Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms are both 20th-century phenomena, and arose at the same time in competition with each other. The idea that either is more ‘invented’ and hence less ‘authentic’ than the other is ignorant, ahistorical claptrap.

And here is Ross Douthat, one of the vanishing breed of thinking conservatives, on the stupidity of nominatine Gingrich: http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/the-tempting-of-the-christian-right/?hp

Gingrich also spoke broadly of  the Palestinians as “terrorists”, tarring a whole people. To keep perspective, here is a Palestinian “terrorist”, after Israel bombed his neighborhood (I could have shocked you with a photo of a dead child, but I don’t like that tactic and consider it disrespectful of the deceased):

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The image is the interior of the dome of Sts Peter and Paul Orthodox church in Bethesda Maryland.

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